A few nights ago my wife was scrolling Facebook when she saw a quote someone posted that caught her attention.
If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.Ruth Graham
That quote, which is commonly attributed to Billy Graham, actually came from his wife Ruth. But it wasn’t really the quote that sparked my desire to address it here. Rather, it was the hot takes in the comment section. The dozen or so that she read to me included arguments like:
- “God is perfect! He doesn’t have to apologize to anyone!”
- “That was before the cross. We live in grace now.”
- “God doesn’t punish, he judges.”
- “That was because they weren’t a Christian nation.”
- And of course, my personal favorite, “Something, something, you’re a bigot”.
Of course there were more but those were the most common ones, so I figure we can just take them one by one.
God is perfect! He doesn’t have to apologize to anyone!
This was probably the most prevalent comment in the thread, and it bewilders me. I mean, it is correct, but it misses the point entirely. She wasn’t saying God needs to apologize to anyone for anything. She’s expressing that the wickedness of the American culture would make the people of Sodom and Gommorah blush. Furthermore, they didn’t export their sinful culture all over the world the way we do. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a patriotic American but if God was justified in his judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins, which he obviously was, then would he not also be justified in judging America for hers?
That was before the cross. We live in grace now.
Chronologically, sure; it was before the cross. But this rebuttal suggests the fallacy that the God of the Old Testament was somehow different than the God of the New Testament. As Christians we understand and believe that Jesus is God (Mark 14:61-64, John 1:1-5, John 8:58, John 10:30, John 14:8-11). We also understand that God is unchanging (Psalm 55:19, Psalm 102:27, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 1:12, Hebrews 13:8, James 1:17). If God is, in fact, unchanging then how can we differentiate between his grace and judgement in the BC and AD eras? Was His demand for holiness different before the cross? Is His hatred for sin somehow lessened since the cross? Shall we then continue sinning that grace may abound (Romans 6:1)? Of course not (Romans 6:2). That would be ridiculous, and so is the idea that somehow we now live in a world where God will no longer judge the world for their actions. See Revelation chapters 6-20 for details.
God doesn’t punish, he judges.
In His judgement against the wicked and unrepentant, is there punishment or ambivalence? Is it just toward the oppressed for God to let the sins of the oppressors go unpunished? If someone stabbed you, would it be a righteous judgement for the criminal justice system to just let your attacker off with a warning? If somebody came after your children, would you not defend them and seek justice afterward? We in the Church today have an identity crisis. We want so desperately to see people come to faith in Jesus that too often we try to castrate the nature of God in order to make Him more palatable to our modern sensibilities. We mean well, but in this instance the road to hell is literally paved with good intentions.
God is complex. He is kind, gentle, loving, and patient, but He is also glorious, vengeful, overwhelming, terrifying, and all-encompassing. At the beginning of this section I mentioned that in His judgement against the wicked there is punishment. The thing that we overlook is that in His judgement of the righteous there is also punishment. The only difference is that our punishment was taken by Jesus, and as a result He extends salvation to us by the shedding of his truly righteous blood (1 John 2:2, Isaiah 53:5).
That was because they weren’t a Christian nation.
I’ve heard this a lot over the years, especially in Evangelical circles. I’ll keep this point brief as I think it’s pretty simple to understand. Sodom and Gomorrah were not Christian cities, that is true. America is not a Christian nation. With that said, we were not founded to be a secular nation either. The roots of American society are based on the ideas, concepts, and ethics of biblical Christianity; most of the early American people were believers, but that doesn’t necessarily make this a Christian nation.
Furthermore, even if we were a Christian nation, does that somehow exempt us from God’s righteous judgement should our nation fall away? Ancient Israel, and later the kingdom of Judah were both — for all intents and purposes — Christian nations. The Israelites were believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they believed in the coming Messiah (i.e. the Christ). They followed God and kept his commands, until they didn’t. Once they fell away God allowed them plenty of time to turn from their sins and to return to Him, but when they refused and went further and further into their corruption and depravity they faced the wrath of His judgement. So in what way are we any different? As a society, we once worshiped and obeyed God and over time we fell away. Does that mean that everyone in America fell away? Of course not; just like there were faithful people in Israel and Judah. However, their kingdoms were judged and punished because of their disobedience and idolatry.
Something, something, you’re a bigot!
Okay, so I didn’t really see this in the comments, but it’s 2022 so we might as well assume someone out there is thinking/saying it. I will simply say this. Don’t acknowledge or engage with this kind of rhetoric. It’s a bad faith argument that’s not worth your time or energy. Walk with Jesus and allow others to see His work in your life. If they think you’re a bigot when you do that, then they can take that up with God.